Minneapolis, MN, December 16, 2009 --(PR.com
)-- December might be an important month for the healthcare debate in Washington, but it is equally important for many enrollees of benefit plans, both through their employers as well as government-run plans like Medicare. The end of the calendar year is the most common time for benefit plan years to end, flexible spending accounts to expire, and open enrollment to occur for the following year’s plan sign-up.
“Making the right open enrollment choices during this time of year can save families hundreds or even thousands of dollars during the upcoming plan year,” according to Heather Johnson of HealthHarbor.com, a web-based resourced focusing on helping consumers become smarter about their health care. “Understanding your healthcare needs and adjusting your coverage according allows you to take full advantage of the benefits that are offered to you, in addition to getting the most of your 2009 health coverage before the plan year ends.”
HealthHarbor.com recommends a three-step checklist for end of year healthcare activities, to ensure consumers are taking full advantage of their benefits. More open enrollment and year-end tips, and ways to best use your health coverage, can be found at HealthHarbor’s Open Enrollment Information Center
Use your entire Flexible Spending Account (FSA) by the deadline. It is estimated that over 90% of FSA dollars are used by the deadline, which still leaves up to 10% unused. With FSA dollars, you either use it or lose it, so unused dollars are lost forever. While deadlines for using your FSA dollars can occur throughout the year, the most common deadline is that the medical expenses have to be incurred by December 31, with a final submission date of around April of the following year. If you have dollars remaining in your FSA, now might be a great time to make a dental appointment, get that mole removed, or upgrade your prescription eyewear. “People are surprised by what you can buy with FSA dollars. Many over-the-counter household drugs qualify, as do home improvements if they help a family member with a health condition” according to Johnson.
Seek out the medical care that your plan allows before the clock resets. If you receive benefits for a twice annual teeth-cleaning, and you’ve only gotten one this year, setup an appointment for the second. If you require therapy and have an insurance that resets the counter at the new plan year, you may want to squeeze one or two more in before the deadline. Seeking out care that your benefit allows enables you to make your medical premiums go farther and start the new year healthier. Additionally, it almost goes without saying that if you have a deductible and have met it for the plan year, now is a great time to get additional medical care without having to spend as much out of your pocket.
Be thoughtful about signing up for new benefits. Signing up for health benefits during open enrollment often becomes an 11th hour exercise, scrambling to finish before the deadline. Give yourself a little more time this year, and examine your health usage history. If a family member requires expensive prescriptions, make sure to choose a plan that does as much as possible to offset the cost. If you know that you will be having a baby in the upcoming year, closely examine your options to be sure you get the best labor and delivery and newborn care for the money. Likewise, if you discover you’ve been paying for services that you never use, now might be a great time to streamline your benefit plan by cutting out some of those unnecessary benefits, and save on premiums.
The open enrollment deadlines aren’t only for employer-based insurance plans. Medicare has a December 31 deadline for enrolling it some of its plans, including the Part D prescription drug benefit.
“We see many people let this crucial time of year come and go without really focusing on their benefit plans. It is a shame, because using your FSA correctly or adjusting your family’s benefit plan can get the new year started on better financial footing” added Johnson.
For more healthcare consumer information and benefit tips, visit www.healthharbor.com.